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Conversation Pieces

Just like 18th century group portraits (the original ‘conversation pieces’), Johnen Galerie's show engages a diverse collection of artists in a series of dynamic exchanges.

Image for Conversation Pieces
“Fantasia For Four Hands”, 2002, by Rodney Graham

Just like the group portraits that were so popular in Britain in the 18th century (the original ‘conversation pieces’), the wide-ranging works in Conversation Pieces I-III: A Chamber Play engage a diverse collection of artists in a series of intimate and dynamic exchanges.

By combining different forms of representation, they depict the inner dramas of their subjects – their emotions, passions and desires – while centring on non-political or personal subjects such as historical fiction and domestic life.

In the first of the three scenes, the German artist Hans-Peter Feldmann’s sculptures and installations are merged with the Korean Tim Lee’s mix of photography, video, text and sculpture; the aim is to reinterpret past and present moments as tipping points into something new. The second part of Conversation Pieces I-III unites the work of Canadian Rodney Graham and Scotsman Martin Creed in an effort to augment our understanding of their varied sources and approaches, and the third brings the Albanian video artist Anri Sala’s eclectic images together with some of New York-born photographer Roger Ballen’s most visceral, intensely confrontational black-and-white portraits.

Johnen Galerie’s proximity to the Deutsches Theater, one of Germany’s most important theatres, also inspires reflection about contemporary art’s relationship to the staged and dramatized. At the theatre itself, there is another show: a display of posters, programmes and photographs from the most important performances since its inauguration in 1883.